The magnificent Arabic archipelago of Bahrain offers historical sights, world-class shopping and tantalisingly good cuisine. Before you visit the extraordinary Gulf country, our essential Bahrain guide delivers everything you need to know.
Famous for:The most beautiful pearls in the world. Thanks to their radiance and purity of colour, Bahrain pearls are considered the finest you can buy and the country has a centuries-long pearl fishing heritage. The archipelago is also blessed with an abundance of World Heritage Sites like the ancient Bahrain Fort and the glittering annual Bahrain Grand Prix.
Like most of the Middle East, Bahrain has a hot, arid climate with hot summers and moderate winters. Temperatures peak between May to September, when they can reach up to 35–40°C, and hover around the mid 20s for the rest of the year. Temperatures are at their most pleasant between November and April.
WHAT TO SEE
From unearthing its fascinating heritage to a burgeoning cultural scene, Bahrain has so much to discover. Bahrain National Museum is a great place to start, with its spellbinding collection of Dilmun-era artifacts. Al Fateh Grand Mosque – open to non-Muslims – is one of the world’s largest and is dazzlingly ornamental. Witness the UNESCO World Heritage wonder of Bahrain Fort, a sprawling ancient Portuguese complex.
Indulge in some retail therapy by combining traditional with contemporary shopping at Bahrain’s souks and glossy malls. Manama Souq is the capital’s oldest bazaar, bursting with nuts, spices and textiles. Get a hit of luxury at Moda Mall, a sleek shopping spot overflowing with prestige brands like Chanel and Armani.
Bahrain comprises 30 islands. Charter a boat and hop your way around them in search of your own private beach. Furthermore, watching Manama’s skyscraper skyline at sunset from the water is unbeatable.
WHAT TO EAT
Because of its history as a vast trading port, Bahrain cuisine is a melting pot of Arabic, Indian, Far Eastern and even European flavours. Must-try local flavours include national dish machboos, chicken or lamb spiced with cumin, turmeric and cinnamon, and muhammar, sweet rice with dates. Make like the locals and go for a qahwa – a traditional Arabic coffee – in an authentic coffee house.
Bahrain is an Islamic country and observing local etiquette is key. The most common greeting is ‘salam alaykum’ meaning ‘peace be upon you’. Only use your right hand to shake hands. When dining with a host or in company, if refreshments are offered you should always accept. Bahrain guides tend to stress the dress codes. They are more relaxed for tourists and expats but keep shoulders and knees covered when out and about. When visiting mosques, remove shoes.
WHAT TO PACK
Whenever you visit Bahrain, it’s going to be warm so opt for light, breathable clothing in natural fabrics like cotton. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat that shades your neck are a must. If you plan to explore ancient sites, take comfy, sturdy footwear. Both men and women should dress modestly so include a selection of long, flowing trousers and long-sleeved shirts.
Inspired by our Bahrain guide? If you’re planning a stay in Bahrain for business or leisure, the palatial Jumeriah Royal Saray makes a luxurious location from which to explore Manama’s highlights.